Last night my wife and I went to see Emerald Germs of Ireland, a play by the well-known Irish writer Pat McCabe, in the Ramor Theatre in Virginia. We’re very lucky that our small local theatre gets to host a lot of exceptional drama (including McCabe’s earlier The Dead School) – a world premiere in this instance.
Emerald Germs of Ireland is a bravura piece of work by McCabe and the two actors, Aaron Monaghan and Padraic McIntyre … a manic and surreal black comedy about the inner world and mocking demons of a farmer who lives with his elderly mother. Monaghan and McIntyre play a couple of dozen parts, changing deftly and instantaneously from one character to another with minimal (but often hilarious) use of costumes and props, assisted by strobe lighting and an eclectic musical soundtrack.
When my wife and I were walking into the bar at the interval, we happened to be beside Pat McCabe. My wife made a cheery remark to him, addressing him by his first name, and he proceeded to give us his thoughts and explain his possible misgivings about the play (which demands a lot from the audience, he feels), as if we were old friends … in fact we had never met him before.
That is how it is in Ireland, and that’s what Aaron Monaghan was alluding to in an interview about working on Broadway: “I’m finding it a little weird …When people come and talk to you [after the show] they treat you with a lot of respect you don’t necessarily deserve! Back home everyone is pretty much equal.”
The equality, the informality, the lack of emotional distance, are among the reasons we love this country, and why so many visitors feel at home here. It’s hard to pin down, but there is a sense of endless possibility … of giving randomness a chance. Talk to the stranger … he might just enhance your life in some small way, or vice versa.
And the great Irish theatrical tradition is alive and kicking, not just among the metropolitan elite but in rural outposts like ours, with the ordinary people. Long may it continue.